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Catholic Charities Gets Ready For New Clients: Republicans Prepare Their Next Move

Bill Zeeble
Catholic Charities CEO Arne Nelson and its Director of Immigration and Legal Services, Vanna Slaughter welcomed President Obama's executive order on immigration reform. It will help thousands of clients they work with every day

Catholic Charities and other advocates for immigrants are making plans to deal with 180,000 North Texans covered by the policy change President Obama unveiled Thursday night. So how’s the idea playing on both sides of the issue?

For Arne Nelson, Catholic Charities of Dallas CEO, President Obama’s executive order was a welcomed change to the status quo. 

“Here we see thousands families each year. And daily we see first-hand the impact of broken immigration system. We believe our nation could no longer wait for action while so many families were torn apart,” Nelson said.

The group’s Director of Immigration and Legal services, Vanna Slaughter, points to Migration Policy Institute estimates that 180,000 immigrants in North Texas will now be eligible to stay here.

“If we end up helping about 15% of that,” Slaughter said, “we may be looking at 25,000 to 27,000 people that we will help here at Catholic Charities.”

Slaughter said some of those people include undocumented parents of U.S. citizens, in other words, the parents of children who were born here. She said there’s also a new series of priorities for law enforcement officials. They’ll now focus on suspected terrorists, repeat convicts, and those ordered for deportation this year.

“As we have seen in our communities, families have been torn apart because of simple things like traffic infractions,” Slaughter said. “And they’ve been turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and deported. This will put an end to that for people who are living their lives here and simply get caught for running a red light.”  

Slaughter said it’s a good day at Catholic Charities, thanks to the President’s move. Many, like Jonathan Neerman, don’t think so. The attorney’s a former chairman of Dallas County Republicans

“I think there are a lot of Texans, even Republicans, who would agree philosophically with the policy the President announced yesterday,” Neerman said. “However the problem is the method in which he enacted the policy.”

Neerman said if the President really believed he had support from the American public, he would have issued this order before the election. The Republican also doesn’t buy the President’s argument that this was a necessary order because  lawmakers came up empty, despite years of trying.  

“He has plenty of opposition within his own party, particularly from the unions, with respect to illegal immigration and comprehensive immigration reforms. For him to foist this all on Republicans is unfair,” Neerman said.

Now, as the Republicans gear up for their next move, Catholic Charities and other non-profits gear up for an influx of new clients. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.